Kourbage got into the business accidentally; he was going to be a cop and took a temporary job. “You were solving problems on a day-to-day basis—on an hour-to-hour basis, actually.” But he takes great pride in what he does. “It has been a very great project for us and for the city and for the citizens of New York, basically, because nobody’s dying, and it’s basically ’cause of us.”
12. The Next West Nile
West Nile tells us that as the world gets smaller with air travel, and as the barriers between animal and human illnesses break down, we are going to be experiencing new illnesses, many from pathogens brought to us courtesy of vectors such as mosquitoes.
The next pathogen on the CDC radar is Chikengunya virus, which causes seriously debilitating joint pain—months-out-of-work debilitating—and is known to be transmitted by the Asian-tiger mosquito, among others. (As opposed to West Nile, a large percentage of those infected with the virus show symptoms.) The name comes from the East African Makonde language, from the word meaning “that which bends.” It was first isolated in Tanzania in 1953. It has caused epidemics in Africa and Asia and most recently Europe. It is most likely already here.
13. Skeeter Silence
What does the health department say about the upcoming summer? Nothing. Maybe they don’t want to panic people. Maybe they’re not that worried. They just won’t say.
14. Mosquito Hazmat
Does DEET work? Debatable, though under a microscope you can see the mosquitoes reacting to it, cleaning it from their feet and mouth parts, more or less as we would if we had it sprayed on our feet and mouth parts. Which is more or less what the experts are asking of us: “DEET, if you wear it properly, can be highly effective, and properly means you have to wear the higher formulations,” says Vosshall. “So you’ve got to go to the highest concentration that’s sold to consumers and be very diligent about spreading it in every part of the skin.”
Because they will get us. The chances are pretty good they won’t kill us. But they will get us. When we finally find time for a vacation, or just a beer on the stoop (watch for cops), or in the backyard, if you have one. They will unsheathe their proboscis and suck the hell out of us, depositing, at least, the irritants that will make you itch. If that’s all they deposit this summer, the mosquitoes will be merely a nuisance. All they do is bite.